Since the introduction of GSM technology, we have seen the evolvement of cellular network generations. GSM technology has been the backbone in developing network architectures like 1G, 2G, and 3G, which were the first, second, and third generations. This is the same with the two popular cellular network standards of the 4G LTE and 5G. 4G is the fourth cellular network generation stage with improved mobile communication broadband. Besides, it is a cellular standard with enhanced transmission and data speeds compared to the 3G standard. On the other hand, 5G is the fifth generation with higher bandwidth than 4G LTE. Regarding internet speeds, 5G has higher internet speeds reaching up to 20 Gbps.
Are you planning to migrate to either of the network standards? If yes, this tutorial will help you know the differences between the two network standards and how they operate. Additionally, we will discuss the benefits of each network standard to help make good decisions. So, before we look at the differences, let us first understand what 4G and 5G networks are.
Understanding 4G LTE
As said above, GSM technology is the backbone of the evolvement of cellular networks, which were developed in various generations. 4G is a fourth broadband cellular network technology that evolved from the third generation, 3G. Many experts have noted a slight difference between the 4G and 4G LTE that might confuse you. The difference between 4G and LTE is only found in marketing, where most network providers market 4G as a 4G LTE.
So, how can you define LTE? This is an abbreviation of Long-Term Evolution, which is a wireless broadband communication for phones and data terminals usually based on GSM technologies. So, how do 4G and LTE relate? A 4G network standard encompasses several types of connections, and LTE is one of them. Most companies have adopted 4G LTE because it has high data transmission speeds compared to 3G.
How does 4G LTE work?
For 4G LTE to work, there must be antennae through which radio frequencies are sent to and from. A connection is usually established between two mobile devices through this antenna, where the two can access the specific carrier’s network. This connection does not just happen. MIMO and OFDM technologies facilitate signal transmission and reception in the 4G LTE. The two technologies enable more bandwidth and capacity than the TDMA and CDMA technologies that power 3G networks. MIMO technology is a powerful tool that allows 4G LTE to reduce the congestion found in network standards of former generations. The technology gives room for more users to be connected at the same time without experiencing delays.
4G LTE uses IP, Internet Protocol, to support voice and data, compared to 3G, which only has IP for data. The IP standard makes 4G more efficient for the network providers who can operate and optimize voice and data as one entity. This feature is unavailable on 3G, where the two are managed separately.
5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks that is believed to be fully roll-out in the United States in 2020. Several leading mobile network carriers in the country adopted the network standard, and currently, several cities have access to the 5G network. Some of these carriers include Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Denver, Detroit, Rhode Island, and Washington are some towns where you can get 5G network accessibility. 5G offers fast internet speeds compared to all other GSM network standards. Once 5G is fully rolled out across the country, we expect there will be many carriers offering 3G phasing off the service. Currently, many carriers offering 3G are migrating to the 4G network standard, which has better benefits than 3G.
How does 5G work?
As you saw with 4G operations, the foundation of how 5G works have been laid by the 4G LTE network standard. All wireless networks have cell sites divided into sections through which data is sent via radio waves. This is the same with 5G, which is a wireless network. The transmission of 5G wireless signals is usually done through large numbers of small cell stations that you will find in light poles and building roofs. This is different from 4G, which needs large cell towers that are highly powered to radiate signals for long distances. 5G uses multiple small cells because the wave spectrum band has a higher frequency of 30 and 300 GHz. The spectrum is responsible for generating high speeds experienced in 5G networks. Kindly note that these signals can only travel short distances that can be interfered with by weather and physical objects like buildings.
The other wireless technology generations have been using lower-frequency spectrum bands, which posed a more significant challenge in distance coverage. The wireless technology industry is considering using a lower-frequency spectrum in 5G network build-up to offset the difficulties arising from the distance coverage. This will empower many network operators to build their networks on their spectrum. Kindly note that the lower frequency spectrum covers longer distances but has a lower speed than mmWave.
Benefits of 4G LTE over 5G
As mentioned above, 5G looks more potent than all the other network generations before, 4G included. However, there are several benefits that you will get when using 4G LTE than 5G. Here are some of them
1. Wide Network Coverage
4G LTE has comprehensive coverage in the United States and the world at large compared to 5G. Many companies and governments are committed to seeing the 5G implementation worldwide, but this may take time before actualization. This is because the equipment and the process of the 5G implementation are costly. Currently, you will get a 5G network in a few cities and areas with 5G towers compared to 4G LTE, which is almost in all parts of the country.
2. High upload speeds
5G network infrastructure has succeeded in implementing high download speeds. However, many experts believe that 5G technology has less upload speeds when compared to 4G LTE. This gives the 4G LTE network the upper hand in uploading pretty recommendable speeds. However, with time the structure of 5G on the upload speed will keep improving, but for now, 4G LTE users enjoy fast upload speeds.
3. 4G LTE saves battery life
Most of the manufacturers making phones that support 5G networks have not managed to come up with brands that are 5G friendly. This is a limitation in the 5G network that drains your device’s battery reducing its lifespan. However, many phones that support 4G network technology are friendly to the network, and users enjoy extended battery life. Researchers are trying to come up with phones that are 5G friendly and that will preserve the battery life of the devices. So, expect to get phones with better battery life.
4. Cheaper implementation
The phone operators who wish to roll out the 4G LTE infrastructure are likely to do it at a lower cost compared to 5G. One of the main challenges in rolling out 5G infrastructure is the high cost incurred when installing the structures. So, those using 4G LTE can roll out the infrastructure at a lower price.
Benefits of 5G over 4G LTE
5G offers more benefits compared to 4G LTE, which include
1. High data speeds
5G is characterized by high data speeds on mobile phones and other 5 G-compatible gadgets compared to 4G LTE. So, you will likely enjoy fast downloads of movies, videos, or music in seconds compared to minutes in the other network architectures. 5G has internet speeds of up to 20 Gbps which has led to the introduction of automation by many organizations.
2. Low latency
You will experience low latency in 5G compared to the 4G LTE network, a feature that supports the efficiency of new applications like AI, IoT, and Virtual reality. You will likely enjoy a low latency of 5 milliseconds in 5G, whereas 4G LTE has a latency ranging from 60to 90 milliseconds. The low latency in the 5G has resulted in the high download speeds associated with the network.
3. More bandwidth
5G users experience more bandwidth which provides a faster transfer of data. As a result, there is faster connectivity among the devices giving you the best experience.
4. Less tower congestion
Before the introduction of 5G, 4G LTE used to experience congestion, resulting in users’ problems when accessing important information. However, this issue has been solved by 5G, which allows many users to access information simultaneously. 5G allows over 1 million users to access data simultaneously without experiencing delays or congestion.
What are the key differences between 4G LTE and 5G?
Although 4G LTE and 5G aim to provide network services to users globally, some key factors differentiate the two. These factors are in terms of
- Speed: 5G has a faster speed of up to 20 Gbps compared to LTE, which has a maximum download speed of 100 Mbps.
- Latency: 5G network has a lower of less than 10ms than 4G LTE, which ranges from 20 to 30ms.
- Frequency: 5G spectrum has radio frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz compared to 4G LTE, which has a frequency ranging from 6 GHz and 24.25 GHz.
- Availability: 5G is not covered in most parts of the country compared to 4G LTE in cities and rural areas. You will mostly find 5G network coverage in cities.
- Energy consumption: most of the phones available in the market are 4G LTE friendly compared to 5G devices. Your device will likely have longer battery life when using a 4G LTE network than 5G. However, this may change with time because of the improvements made to 5G devices.
Is 5g better than 4G LTE?
Yes. 5G provides faster internet and data transfer speeds than 4G LTE. Its faster and superior speeds of up to 20 Gbps allow you to download 8K videos in seconds compared to 4G LTE, which takes minutes. Additionally, 5G supports virtual reality, AR, and automation, which are some of the new inventions that require a high-speed network. So, if you are in a city with 5G coverage, get a compatible device and start enjoying this experience provided by 5G networks.
Do 4G LTE work on a 5G network?
Most phones in 4G LTE were built to support the signals from 4G LTE towers and other older versions. The technology employed when making a 4G phone is incompatible with the 5G network. So, you may be forced to get a phone compatible with both 4G LTE and 5G for an excellent usability experience.
How fast is 4G LTE?
4G LTE users experience download speeds of up to 100 Mbps which is 10 times faster than one experienced by 3G users.
How fast is 5G?
The key strength of 5G is the speed experienced by users. The average download speed you will likely experience with 5G is up to 20 Gbps. However, you may not experience faster uploads that match the 5G download speeds.
Can I use a 5G phone on a 4G network?
Yes. All 5G phones are designed to use the 5G networks and any other network in the old GSM generations.
Will 4G be phased out?
No. You may not experience 4G LTE being phased out any time soon. This is regardless of the fast rate at which the 5G roll-out is happening. The primary plan for 4G LTE was to have users use it until 2030.